VAWA Sovereignty Initiative

In an effort to defend the constitutionality and functionality of all Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) tribal provisions, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center launched the VAWA Sovereignty Initiative. Following the historic victory in restoring the inherent authority of Indian tribes to prosecute non-Native defendants for certain crimes (partial Oliphant fix) – known as Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction with the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, NIWRC shifted focus to enhance the tribal provisions further and defend the important advancements in federal law and policy related to the protection of Native women and children.

Because many tribes do not have adequate resources to assess all of their legal vulnerabilities in implementing VAWA, this national initiative was necessary to protect VAWA and tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians nationwide. In collaboration with Mary Kathryn Nagle, J.D., the VAWA Sovereignty Initiative allows NIWRC to prepare for the defense of VAWA and tribal sovereignty through the monitoring of federal court cases to ensure that as soon as the first challenge hits the courts, Indian country is ready to respond.


Help us increase protections for Native women and defend tribal sovereignty.

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NIWRC needs the support and investment of tribes and generous supporters to see the VAWA Sovereignty Initiative through. Help champion the rights and safety of Native women, children, families, and communities by making an investment in this critical work to protect tribal sovereignty and Native women.

The United States v. Rahimi case concerns individuals subject to a domestic violence restraining order from possessing firearms.

The Brackeen v. Haaland case concerns the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Castro-Huerta is a non-Indian convicted for committing child abuse against an Indian child on the Cherokee Nation Reservation.

On January 18, 2022, NIWRC filed an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court in support of the United States in United States v. Merle Denezpi.

On November 20, the U.S. Supreme Court’s granted the United States’ petition for writ of certiorari in U.S. v. Cooley.

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, the ACLU, and 27 tribal and advocacy organizations, united in filing an amicus brief in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

In November 2018, NIWRC and the National Congress of American Indians filed an amicus brief in Gamble v. United States.

In September 2018, NIWRC had an interest in filing and began organizing to file an amicus brief in Royal v. Murphy.

NIWRC’s amicus brief was joined by 118 additional organizations and Tribal Nations that share NIWRC’s commitment to ending violence against Native women.

On February 1, 2016, NIWRC filed an amicus brief to support the United States’ position in U.S. v. Bryant

NIWRC  filed a brief as amicus curiae asking SCOTUS to affirm the First Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Voisine v. United States.

NIWRC filed an amicus brief in Dollar General Corporation, et. al. v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians